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The Conversation

Here's how the state labor department is doing at this stage of the pandemic

A 'Now Hiring' sign hangs in front of a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Miami on Dec. 3. Omicron is spreading at a time when some businesses such as restaurants are already strugging to find workers.
Joe Raedle
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A 'Now Hiring' sign hangs in front of a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Miami on Dec. 3. Omicron is spreading at a time when some businesses such as restaurants are already strugging to find workers.

Looking back over the pandemic, a source of stress for so many people was job loss and the process of applying for unemployment benefits.

The volume of people out of work and filing claims initially overwhelmed the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

If you recall, the unemployment rate went from the lowest in the country pre-pandemic to one of the highest at nearly 24%.

The crisis shed light on the department's antiquated computer system that was not designed to handle the volume of cases.

So where do things stand now?

"We're doing much better than we were in the last year. We are seeing numbers drop. We know that the unemployment rate is down to 6% in November. Our workload has also dropped drastically," said Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio.

The backlog of claims has been cleared up, though there are still some adjudication issues being addressed, she said.

In December, the department also resumed in-person services at its office. She said there were still more telephone appointments than walk-ins.

"The numbers were very, very minimal. We were quite surprised," Perreira-Eustaquio said. "I think it's a testament to the tremendous job the staff has been carrying out in the last two years."

As for the antiquated computer system, she said a modernized system is set to launch at the end of 2022.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 30, 2021. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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